Obama Administration Gives Textron $641 Million Contract to Sell Cluster Bombs to Saudi Royal Family

Saturday, August 24, 2013
Cluster bomb victims from Ethiopia and Afghanistan (photo: pxkls, Wikipedia)

The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a $640.8 million deal to contractor Textron Defense Systems for it to provide Saudi Arabia with 1,300 cluster bombs, a type of military weapon banned by many nations around the world.


The U.S. and Saudi Arabia, however, have refused to sign The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was ratified in 2008.


Cluster bombs are dropped from aircraft and disperse as smaller “bomblets” across a wide area. Although developed for use against combatants, cluster bombs have proven to be a danger to civilian populations due to their capacity to remain unexploded until stepped on or picked up.


Textron claims its Sensor Fuzed Weapon Cluster Bomb Unit has a “greater than 99% reliability,” meaning all but 1% are expected to explode once they hit the ground.


This detail has allowed the Obama administration to skirt around a federal ban on selling cluster bombs to nations unless the weapon has a 99% reliability rate.


Regardless of how effective the weapon may be according to the manufacturer, the London-based Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) says the bombs will still be a threat to civilians.


“It is worth noting that failure rates of submunitions have always been shown to be far higher in combat than in the controlled environment of manufacturer’s testing. As the U.S. Congressional Research Service noted in a recent assessment, the potential for a sub to become a dud can be affected by a range of factors, from the temperature of the air, to the chance that the sub could be caught in a tree,” AOAV reported.


The group also says that “a tiny failure rate will still leave a large threat to civilians. That cluster munitions continue to kill and injure civilians for many years is one of the many reasons why the international community saw fit to outlaw their future use or transfer. Sixty per cent of cluster bomb casualties occur while the victim is undertaking their normal activities.”


Sarah Blakemore, director of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), a campaign working to ban the weapons, noted that the U.S.-Saudi Arabia deal comes at a time when the two countries have condemned Syria’s use of cluster bombs against rebels trying to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Flouting International Rejection of Weapons, US to Supply Saudi Arabia With Cluster Bombs (by Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams)

Textron Wins Contract for Cluster Bomb Sale (by Rich Smith, Motley Fool)

Obama Approves $29 Billion Fighter Jet Sale from Boeing to Saudi Royal Family (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Why Did the Saudi Royal Family Agree to Buy $60 Billion of U.S. Weapons It Doesn’t Need? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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